From Tumbler to tackler: 14 year old girl gets on the gridiron - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

From Tumbler to tackler: 14 year old girl gets on the gridiron

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) – To be successful in the game of football, it takes years of hard work and determination and one local athlete is getting a head start.

 After a thrilling overtime win over North Myrtle Beach, Ocean Bay Middle School football is only one win away from a perfect season but for 14 year old Brianna Distel being undefeated isn't the only thing making this season special.

"This is about as proud as I’ve been about a group of fellas as we've had,” said Mark Lowery, Ocean Bay middle school head football coach; “I’m sorry. Well you know I say that but there's no difference between her and any of my other players."

Standing with a group of her peers, it may be difficult to identify Brianna Distel.

"She’s just like one of the guys,” said Steve Distel, Brianna’s Dad.

The 14 year old tends to blend in, but she's the only Stingray football player who once stood on the sideline as a cheerleader.

"I always watched football,” said Brianna.

And now this tumbler turned tackler wants in on the action.

"So I just wanted to try out for football,” said Brianna.

Her decision to get on the gridiron was met with some resistance from her male counterparts.

“I said I wanted to try out and they would always pick on me for that but I wanted to prove them wrong,” said the eighth grader.

"She never doubted that she wanted to do this,” echoed the teen’s dad.

Brianna may not have doubted herself but Mark Lowery, the head coach of ocean bay football, was unsure about the endeavor.

"I had reservations about the physicality, would she be able to do that, but i knew she had the commitment,” said Lowery, seven-year Stingrays head coach.

Through training camps and pre-season workouts, Brianna earned a roster spot.

 "After that initial, ‘'Hey, we've got a girl on the team’, and they realized that we didn't treat her any different, they stepped up and I think they made her feel as much a part of the team as anybody else.”

Brianna echoed, "I know they like me a lot and I know that if they really thought I couldn't do it they wouldn't have put me on the team."

Distel became just the second female athlete to play football at Ocean Bay middle school but the first in her position.

“This is the first time that I’ve had a young lady that actually wanted to play on the line, the offensive and defensive line, which is predominantly more of a grunt-it-out, very physical position."

A football coach of nearly 30 years, Lowery can spot who’s got it and who does not.

"She's played as hard as any young man we've had,” said Lowery.

“Coach had told them not to take it easy on her, because the other teams aren't going to and,” said Steve.

"She’s never shied away from anybody and she's always performed as well, if not better than some of the players I would rate her with,” said Lowery.

With only one game left in the season, Brianna hasn't quite seen her hard work translate into many game-time minutes but she remains undeterred.

?“If they don't put me in the game I’m not too upset about it because, I’m like 'I’ve come this far, what's the point in stopping because I’m not in the game?”

Brianna plans on trying out for the junior varsity football team over at Carolina Forest high school next year.

In speaking with the assistant commissioner of the South Carolina high school league, Charlie Wensky, he says there are no rules that would prevent Distel from playing with the Panthers next season.

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